I'm trying to shake off the disappointment today after another 2nd round loss. My life was literally changed by the Broad street bullies, as I was one of many kids who spent much of their youth playing ice hockey entirely due to the explosion of interest in the sport, and the Rinks built and and leagues started after the Flyers won their two cups, some 37 years ago.
Having watched all but three Flyers games this season, I've truly come to love this batch of players, and marveled at the success of this rookie heavy group, even if it seemed improbable at times, and the team fought through more than their fair share of injuries. They were damn fun to watch.
I have not had much time for BSH posting this year, although I certainly read the site religiously and as always, appreciate the efforts of the editors and band of regulars to explore every aspect of the team.
What changed for me this year, is that I decided at that start of the season, I would for the first time, follow my hometown team as well as the Flyers. Although, I grew up in the Philly burbs, I have lived here in Los Angeles since moving to the city after college. My home is here, my professional career has been here, and I have two kids now. I've always followed the Kings through the years, but never as more than a bandwagon fan.
This year has been different. I saw every LA KIngs game this season, and let me tell you that is a lot of Hockey, but it also allowed me for the first time to feel like I had a first hand perspective on the best teams in the league, rather than one filtered through an Eastern conference bias.
I know I'm not alone at BSH in feeling a special connection to the LA Kings, since the blockbuster trade that sent Mike Richards to Manhattan Beach. But it's something more than that for me. Although I love the Flyers, I have my issues with the Flyers organization and front office. I understand that this is a high stakes business where winning is important, but that doesn't excuse for me, unceremoniously dumping John Stevens as coach despite no small measure of success in taking a team from last place to the playoffs, or trading Scott Upshall for petty change without the courtesy of a phone call, or misleading Jeff Carter into signing a long term contract, or strong arming Simon Gagne out of a no-trade, or squandering Nick Zherdev in the pressbox for most of a season, or using the team as an avenue to promote Sarah Palin. The Flyers are in my DNA, and I can't not live and die with them each year, but I'm no longer drinking the coolaid. I have to admit I wasn't all that sad when the Kings beat the Flyers courtesy of a vintage last minute feed from our ex-captain.
I'm a Mike Richards fan, and a Simon Gagne fan, and I don't mind admitting... a Jeff Carter fan, so it's been easy to make a connection with this team. The Kings are also the organization that gave John Stevens a chance to build one of the most effective defensive and penalty killing systems in the NHL, and stayed with him after his boss was fired mid season.
But I've also become a huge Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty fan. The Flyers were right to covet Brayden Schenn and nurture him through his injuries, while the Kings have shown similar faith in sensational rookie defenseman Slava Voynov.
I've become a Willie Mitchell fan, laughed at the downs (the pancake injury fiasco and subsequent divorce) of Dustin Penner and cheered his resurgence, unable to help but feel that I knew it was coming all along.
I'm stunned at the success of a group of 4th line grinders that on paper have no business getting the amount of ice time they're given by Daryll Sutter, who is perhaps the most surprising chapter in this story. Like many Kings fans, I questioned Dean Lombardi's move to hire his old friend, best known for his irritability, and clutch and grab system. Was he a dinosaur in the "new NHL era?" Sutter deserves enormous credit for seeing clearly that the Kings were a team that simply needed some fine tuning.
I've also felt throughout this year I was witnessing something special. Although it looked at points as if the Kings might not even make the playoffs, it was also evident that I was witnessing, night in and night out, a player take his position to another level. And that player is Jonathan Quick.
If you have not seen Quick play much this year, you have missed a goal tending clinic. What he does game in and game out borders on inhuman. There is no goalie even close to him with all due respect to King Henry and Fat Tim Thomas. Jonathan Quick literally controls games, and in support of him, the Kings defense controls games. Watching the Kings play this year, what I've seen is a team that dictates to other teams how the game will be played, like it or not. You can beat the Kings, but you'll beat them playing the type of hockey they want to play, not the one you want to play. Watching them take apart the top two western conference teams with ease, has only reinforced for me my belief that I'm watching history being made.
Yes I'm sad that my beloved Flyers are now golfing. 37 years and counting... but the LA KIngs have never won a Stanley Cup. They are going to win one this year. Have a cry in your beer, and then get out your TV guide and get behind Flyers West. Cheer again for some old friends, my fellow Kings East fans.